|International Bible Studies|
LESSON FOR APRIL 29, 1951
The Settlement in Canaan
MOSES was faithful over the house of Israel as a servant, but due to a sin of presumption in connection with his second smiting of the rock in order to obtain water for the rebellious Israelites, he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. Joshua became his successor, and it was under his leadership that Canaan was occupied by the Israelites, their enemies driven out, and the land divided among eleven of the tribes—the tribe of Levi receiving no inheritance in the land, being set apart to serve the nation in religious matters. The family of Aaron in the tribe of Levi was chosen as the one from which the priests of Israel were to come. Concerning the tribe of Levi the Lord said, “The sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance.”—Joshua 13:14
Six years is the time indicated in the Scriptures which was required for the settlement and division of Canaan among the eleven tribes; although the task of dispersing the Canaanites, the enemies of Israel, was not accomplished in that time. Indeed, it was never fully accomplished. It was a difficult task, but Joshua proved equal to it, serving his people faithfully, and honoring God by his devotion to the divine will.
There is every evidence that Joshua endeavored to be just in the division of the land, and also to honor any promises which may have been made by the Lord through Moses, or otherwise. (Joshua 11:23) This is emphasized in today’s lesson with respect to Caleb. Caleb and Joshua were the only’ two male Israelites of mature age when leaving Egypt who were privileged to enter the Promised Land. Moses had promised Caleb that the land on which his feet had trod when he entered Canaan as a spy would become his inheritance.—Deut. 1:36
Caleb was a member of the tribe of Judah, so when representatives of Judah came to Joshua to complete arrangements for their inheritance in the land, Caleb also appeared to. make sure that the particular part of Judah’s inheritance which Moses had promised would be officially assigned to him by Joshua. This was Kirjath-arba, later known as Hebron. Forty-five years prior to this, Caleb, as a spy, had discovered that the mountain where Hebron was located was possessed by a strong and well fortified people known as Anakims. Despite these formidable enemies, however, Caleb reported back to Moses that with the Lord’s help the land could be occupied by the Israelites. Now, even though he was eighty-five years old, he still had faith that Hebron could be taken, and he was ready to put his faith to work.
Of Caleb it is testified that he “wholly followed the Lord God of Israel.” When he reminded Joshua of the favorable report he made to Moses concerning the ability of Israel to possess Canaan, he said, “I brought him word again as it was in my heart.” (vs. 7) This was a conscientious report from the heart of one who wholly followed the Lord. It was based on the conviction that since the Lord wanted them, to have the land, the Canaanites would not be able to stand up against them. Caleb’s faith reminds us of the kind which Jesus said could remove “mountains.”
STRONG, faithful, and righteous leadership in a nation is sure to be reflected in the attitude of the people. It was true with Israel. “The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua,” we read, and besides, “all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel.” What a noble example Joshua must have been to the people, and particularly to his close associates, the “elders,” for his righteous influence, continued to prevail in the nation even after he died, and as long as his associates lived.
Indeed, the healthy influence of Joshua’s leadership continued to prevail until all the people of that generation died. Not until another generation appeared who “knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel,” did evil begin to dominate in the affairs of the nation. This new generation “did evil in the sight of the Lord,” verse eleven tells us, “and served Baalim.”
JOSHUA was not a king, although beloved and honored by Israel as the nation’s leader and ruler from the death of Moses until his own death. Beginning then, and continuing 450 years, what rulership did exist in Israel was in the hands of servants known as “judges.” This era in their national history is generally spoken of as the period of the judges.
Samuel was the last of Israel’s judges, and he served also as a prophet. It was through him that the nation clamored for and was given a king. They desired this in order to be like other nations. The Lord instructed Samuel to warn the people of the hardships they could expect to endure under the rulership of kings, yet to anoint a king for them if they continued to insist on having one. So Saul became Israel’s first king.
During those 450 years from Joshua until Saul was made king, there was little to restrain the people from following their own selfish and lustful desires. As our lesson states, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes,” and this meant that the standard of righteousness among the people was not very high.
However, when conditions became too serious, and particularly when lack of co-operation among the people placed the nation in danger of attack from without, the Lord raised up judges, who restored order and delivered the nation from its oppressors. But during this period there was no centralized government in the land, as was the case beginning with the era of the kings.
What was the chief occupation of the people during Joshua’s leadership?
Of what tribe of Israel was Caleb a member, and why was he given Hebron as an inheritance?
What important incident in Caleb’s life gave him the reputation of being a person who “wholly followed the Lord”?
How was Joshua’s faithfulness to the Lord reflected in the nation of Israel during his leadership?
What system of rulership existed in Israel from the death of Joshua until King Saul became ruler of the nation? How long was this period?